Monday, March 31, 2008
Bastards of Young: Grafitti Font, Ninja Kicks, Pig Squeals and You!
First, some full disclosure. My friend Christian (Telephantitis) and I are the Vermont-approved co-fathers of the wikipedia article on deathcore. How it looks now is the result of 6 months of arduous deflection of attacks and claims that the subgenre is imaginary or from people who think The Black Dahlia Murder and Ion Dissonance are deathcore. Though we didn't create it, we are the dickheads responsible for its incredibly well-cited and concise nature. This isn't because we particularly like deathcore (or 00's death metal in general, actually), but because we noticed the trend from a mile away something like a year and a half to two years ago vis a vis myspace and felt this ridiculous endpoint of all things metalcore/hardcore needed proper documentation and someone to care for the cloacal shaman-beast it is.
Also, I do love me some metalcore. I mean good metalcore. I still go to bat for Killswitch Engage's The End of Heartache as a solid record and love Bleeding Through's This Is Love, This Is Murderous. I also still think Martyr AD, Unearth, Zao and As I Lay Dying are pretty fucking exemplary for their individual sounds and consistency. But, as a companion piece to my genre study, I must admit, tons of metalcore (in the two forms I'll define later) sucked. There's a lot of mathcore and post-hardcore and emo and etc that, now that old-style metalcore of 2000-2005 is dead as fuck (and did so as soon I hit college, thankfully), will forever be pidgeonholed but wasn't ever metalcore. Simply put, it comes in two varieties: Various failings or succeeding to emulate melodic metal (not just melodeath, as usually erroneously discussed, but a lot of hardcore bands have clearly caught up on NWOBHM or at least thinks natural minor trills and harmonies are "br00tal") mixed with the bizarre and fascinating mutations of hardcore that came about after shit went underground further and lost any steam as a pop music commodity (Re: Converge, Botch, Fugazi, Earth Crisis, Neurosis, etc.). So, you get some kid with a $400 ESp LTD guitar and dead swan hair looking pseudo-goth at the Warped Tour playing fingertapped harmonic minor runs in drop-C punctuated by a breakdown EVERY SONG.
The other form of metalcore that emerged as the opposite of the In FlamesXcore that caught the ears of many a useless white teenager's ears (Because, really, whiny over-distorted melodic hardcore/metal does sound much better at night on your suburban Long Island lawn) was of the spazzy/effeminate variety, which could really span anywhere from screamo to mathcore. This encapsulates all of the output of bands like The Locust or Ion Dissonance or Fear Before the March of Flames. And since garish hipster aesthetic has become the norm, the day-glo/Napolean Dynamite man-childishnessness of this fist int he air, shouty, angular metalcore survived where orthodox metalcore floundered. Badly. And in the end, this was always the more creative and interesting variant because, let's face it, the downfall of metalcore was that everything was stock, natural minor scales trilled without thought aren't impressive, white kids have no problems or things of note to say, and, just maybe, less people in this world should make music. Just because you can play double bass doesn't mean you should.
I personally became aware the metalcore in early 2003/late 2002. Before they brought back Headbanger's Ball (has it been 5 years of this shit already? Yeesh), which I was really psyched for back when I found metal as a whole cool and mysterious and edgy, there was this thing on MTV2 (my most reliable source of music at that time) called Extreme Rock or something to that affect that was an hour long block of metal videos, plus some back goth/hardcore clips. It's here I first encountered Hatebreed and Down and Mortiis and Poison the Well. But most importantly, it was where I developed a man-crush on Mastodon and High on Fire. I guess in response to positive feedback, they played the show ad nauseum at night and mid-afternoon, which probably gave the greenlight to bring back "The 'Ball". At the time, Headbanger's Ball was pretty fascinating to watch, especially since the metalcore trend and ensuing backlash had yet to occur. I could dig into Nevermore, followed by Killswitch Engage, and into Converge and As I Lay Dying. That variety to the videos and quality completely disappeared by the end of 2005, but there were important moments, those "Oh Shit" moments that have thinned out for me as I've gotten older as things more often than not are good, but not that interesting and bands I loved (Interpol, Mastodon, High on Fire) start putting out crap albums.
Several of those moments that would shape my 2004 as a, honestly, burgeoning scene kid was the quadruple-threat of As I Lay Dying, Every Time I Die, Atreyu and Eighteen Visions. The video for "Concubine/Fault and Fracture" proceeded all of these bands on the telecast, but those four transitioned me of the goth-phile aesthetic I was into in 2003.
As I embed these videos, I'm catching bits of them on youtube and getting pretty goddamn verclempt. It's both a mark of how old I am (4 years ago!?) and how important this scene (though I didn't go to metalcore shows until I was 17) and these bands were in the transition into the person I am now. Of this group, only Every Time I Die and As I Lay Dying were any good. The other two, as happens way too frequently with metal bands, had one or two good singles and awful albums. But, from learning "Ebolarama" and playing it every day as well as the Lamb of God, Mastodon, and Atreyu songs I had learned from ear, I was pretty into the whole thing. I wasn't at a point where I could digest death metal or take black metal seriously (It took me two years to get Reign in Blood since I was only used to hearing dissonance in nu-metal back in 2002), so this was the nice little gateway. In a way, I thought of it being like skills in an RPG, taste in genre. In terms of metal, I was a n00b, but I was heavy into Peaches, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Clinic, Public Image LTD., MOTH, and Pavement around that time, which made my pre-iPod flash mp3 player playlist look really weird.
In 2004, I was a sucker. The base gun to head, black nail polish, psuedo-glam-goth straightXedge look was incredibly appealing to my 16-year-old eyes, and I only had a 56K connection, so I had no way of checking out more of the bands and more albums and realizing how much crap was being made, xeroxed, and badly imitated. It wasn't until I got into The Black Dahlia Murder that I started making the distinction and weaning off of metalcore as the genre was clearly becoming way too over-saturated by kids with embarrassing pretensions or pretentious attempts to be working class about making music. One huge pet peeve of mine is bands not A) Being horrible beyond excuse and clearly being in it for fame or money and/or B)Not admitting it. Metalcore careerism came hard and fast, and left a trail of faded Chuck Taylor's and faded girl jeans in its wake.
Awwwwwww shit, once the stoner technical deathgrind band starts shitting on your subculture, its clearly time to clean house. So, two things happened as of 2006. All of the crappy orthodox metalcore bands had their careers destroyed by everyone's impatience with the glut of shitty music being pumped out and the predictability of it all.
So, like what has started with hipsters last year, everyone's had enough except the scene kids themselves, who, being dumb surburban teenagers, really won't get it for a few years anyway. Hot Topic just changes the band shirts on sale and the world moves on. Except now Atreyu aren't selling records. Avenged Sevenfold resort to trying to be Guns'n'Maiden. Eighteen Visions continue to try and be a mix of Throwdown and Stone Temple Pilots. Jada Pinkett makes a better Otep record than Otep. And then, summarily, all the attention shifts to the non-orthodox metalcore bands whose musical foundation was always more eclectic and willfully weird and eschewed the very notion of trying to emulate As I Lay Dying emulating In Flames (I, in accordance to not being a dickhead, refuse to drop the "Metalcore=At The Gates" comment. That shit is played out, B, and At The Gates kind of suck, anyway). Whatever golden-era of metalcore bands remained invariably either pathetically tried to become pseudo-hard rock (in perhaps an ironic twist, the only thing these assholes had in common with actual hardcore from the 80's was devolving into hair metal/cockrock) or tried to become legitamate melodeath bands. Unfortunately, only one of those bands succeeded in the latter, The mu'fucking Black Dahlia Murder
Which leads me, in the two years since Gothenburg-core fully decayed, to deathcore. Unbeknownst to anyone that doesn't fap to breakdowns and thinks, correctly, that Devourment and modern death metal sucks, in the southwest, the metalcore bands were getting heavier, implementing blast beats, and using pig squeals. Our wikipedia article on deathcore gives the gist, including a detailed list of the notable bands at the moment, but the logical progression of people who can't write decent music but have a knack for emulation was to mutate this duck-faced mongrel of a sound, slap some sophmoric pornogrind lyrics/hipster irony on it and overuse a graffiti-interpretation of br00tal death metal fonts to give metalcore one last (definitely the last, unless they get the blackmetalcore thing to work musically) breath of fresh air.
Now, I have no qualms with throwing death metal to the dogs. Who cares, really? Shit is old hat. The issue has become that these bands refer to themselves, in all seriousness as evidenced by their multitudes of myspaces, as "grindcore". Problem. Not only does metalcore and all Xcore elements of this decade have nothing to do with punk, but grindcore is pretty much the only musically relevant offshoot of punk around. But Terrorizer these kids ain't. But once again, its the issue of critic vs. populous. Blast beats and misogynistic lyrics don't make something grind, but try telling that to a Whitechapel or Arsonists Get All The Girls fans. Deathcore fans are my number one reference for the fact that there is a talent in listening to music that's attached to taste. When I got older, my ability to discern things like dissonance and difficult songwriting got better, whereas I'm sure half these kids really do think Cannibal Corpse and Job For A Cowboy sound exactly the same (well, they do in a way. They're both horrible.) Heavy, hardcore-influenced dissonance is what they hear, and that's all they want, which is pretty much the same as the nu-metal mentality of the late 90's. Also damning behind the ignorance and the persistence in writing off criticism with it willfully is the lack of respect for older metalcore. The inability to even know the history of your own scene, lest adopt something as alien as grind into your hairspray vernacular is this disgusting humanist sense of entitlement that only comes with privilege. Much like hipsters deeming what they want as "acceptable" metal and hip-hop, their younger forms, scene kids, try, and fail hard at redefining finite concepts to their narrow world-view. No acknowledgment for The Red Chord or Glass Casket? Ugh.
If its not in br00tal graffiti font, then its for faggots, amirite?
I laugh, or cackle aimlessly, at night knowing that not only will the deathcore wikipedia article, this infallible document, will subversively inform kids everywhere (I wish I could find out how many hits its gotten) but it only solidifies the subgenre's ascension. Naysayers be damnned, deathcore is real, and it sucks. These kids are all being snatched up by Metal Blade and Century Media, and if they have any sense, they'll cash out, get real jobs, and learn to read.
Deathcore Post Video Mixtape!
Actual Grind, For Reference: